Located in the South Catlins region, the Waipapa Point lighthouse New Zealand, is a peaceful and charming area to enjoy a short walk: beaches, sea lions and a lighthouse recognizable by its red door. Below is my guide to help you plan your visit.
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Why visit Waipapa point in the Catlins
Waipapa point is not the most impressive headland in New Zealand. But it is one of the most charming:
- a delicate white lighthouse with a red door
- a white sand beach on one side
- an orange sand / pebble beach on the other
- the opportunity to see sea lions laying around
It is a great place to enjoy the fresh air and the peaceful vibe of the place.
Note - do not mix up! There is a Waipapa town in North Island.
More photos after the planning tips.
Planning Tips - Waipapa Point New Zealand
How to get to Waipapa Point - location
- South Island, South East Coast
- In the Catlins region - see H15 on the map below
- Invercargill to Waipapa point = 50min drive
- Dunedin to Waipapa point = 3h drive
Maps and GPS coordinates are included in my eBooks, to help you plan an unforgettable road trip:
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Visiting Waipapa Point
- The road is now fully sealed
- Easy drive to a large carpark
- Toilets at the carpark
- Easy to walk around and get down to the beaches
- The lighthouse cannot be visited
- Low tide would be a better time to visit to see the wreck and for more chances to see Sea Lions
Planning to rent a car in New Zealand? Check out the local company Snap Rentals
I selected it myself and paid my rental in full.
- They were very nice and responsive, they pick you up and drop you off at the airport
- The car I rented was in perfect condition
- In addition, they have all-inclusive insurance packages with AAA roadside assistance, which means I didn't have to worry (I think it's worth the price)
Where to stay
Road to Waipapa Point carpark
The carpark is 4km away from the main road through the Catlins.
It was funny because the sign was still showing gravel road when I visited.
But I found a beautiful sealed road all the way!
And a large carpark with facilities. So easy to access!
Walking around the lighthouse
From the carpark, you can walk to a lighthouse or walk towards the lighthouse.
There is grass and sand and water... a really peaceful place.
In the distance the lighthouse is so white it stands out.
It is not a tall one, but it is one of the prettiest. I will tell you more about its construction in the next section.
You can see the Catlins' coast to the North, towards Slope point.
And as you walk around the lighthouse on the headland, you will be surprise to find an orange beach on the other side, towards the South.
The Waipapa Point lighthouse
This is the Waipapa Point lighthouse, "a work of art" according to the sign:
Accomoding to the information board:
- It was built after the wreck of the steamship Tararua (see further below)
- It is 13,4m (44ft) tall
- It is clad in a double skin of wood from Kauri and Totara trees
- Built in the 19th century, wood was a cheap option to build lighthouse that could endure the difficult coastal conditions
- First lit on 1 January 1884
- Along with Kaipara North Head, it was the latest timber tower built in New Zealand
- The lantern room is made of Bronze and was manufactured in Scotland and assembled in place
- It has been beautifully restored
I love that the information board also includes the drawing of the lighthouse:
Waipapa point Beaches & Sea lions
The lighthouse is surrounded by beaches.
This is a place where Sea lions like to rest.
Make sure you keep your distance and let them be!
The beaches were beautiful but I did not spot any sea lions, sadly!
This is the beach on the North side:
And this is the beach on the South side. Very strange how orange it is compared to the other side!
S.S. Tararua Wreck
At low tide you can also spot part of the SS Tararua Wreck. (I have no photos as my schedule put me there at high tide...).
In 1881, the steamship was traveling to Melbourne via Bluff with 151 souls on board. It struck the reef and sank with a loss of 131 lives.
From there, you can complete a 15min return walk to the Tararua Acre Cemetery where some of the people who died on the boat were buried.
Ruapuke island in the distance
On a clear day, you may see the silhouette of the 16km2 Ruapuke Island in the distance. Its name means 2 hills:
Another headland to visit nearby is Slope Point. Accessible via Gravel Road.
It is famous only to be the most Southern point of mainland New Zealand (and not Bluff like so many people seems to think).
However there is not much to see compared to Waipapa. Just farmland.
Want to see more of NEW ZEALAND?
Feeling relaxed just looking at the pictures?
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